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To Take a Risk
A/N: This is my first attempt at writing a Tonks/Lupin piece. This couple has caught me by surprise, and I’m completely fascinated by them! One day they spoke up in my head, and I had no choice but to tell the tale. My eternal thanks to my new beta, Suburban House Elf, who jumped right in to help me out!
Disclaimer: If only I could lay claim to this wonderful world. Alas, I just get to frolic here from time to time.
Tonks sat alone in her flat, rubbing at her sore shoulders, and struggling to keep her weary eyes open. She had just gotten home from a forty-eight hour detail and was trying to find the energy to fix herself a cup of tea when something triggered the wards outside her door.
Grabbing her wand, her weariness vanished immediately as she stealthily moved to the door and flung it open. She did not expect what she found there.
Leaning heavily against the wall and barely conscious, Remus Lupin reached one hand out towards Tonks before collapsing. Moving quickly, she caught him and quickly half-dragged him into her flat, resetting the wards as she went.
“Remus! What in the hell– ” Tonks could tell he was in very bad shape, and slowly lowered him down onto the couch.
“Greyback. Found out... spy... Pack turned on me...” Remus was barely staying conscious and the effort was overwhelming him. Sweat was running down his face, and his body was trembling wildly.
Moving aside his tattered robe, Tonks began inspecting some of his wounds and was shocked at the severity. “Accio med kit!” she yelled, catching the small bag in mid-air. “Remus, you’re bleeding badly. Take this potion - it’s a blood replenisher, it should help. How did you get here?”
“Apparated,” he said in barely more than a whisper.
“You should never have attempted that in this state! How did you manage?”
“Had to... needed... see you... one more time...” he muttered.
Remus was starting to pass out and Tonks was scared – more so than she could ever remember being before. Jumping up from the floor, she ran to the fireplace, threw in some Floo powder and yelled “Number twelve, Grimmauld Place,” sticking her head into the green flames. “Poppy! Emergency! I need you now!” she screamed. She pulled back from the fire only to be followed mere seconds later by Poppy Pomfrey, emerging from yet another burst of green.
“What has happened here?” the matron demanded, seeing Remus and at once grabbing her wand to begin her examination.
“He just Apparated here. Said the pack turned on him,” Tonks said nervously, not taking her eyes off of him.
“Did a good job, they did. Lucky to still be breathing with these injuries. It’s a wonder he didn’t splinch himself all over the countryside. You’ve had some experience with emergency healing, haven’t you?” she asked while vanishing Remus’ clothes to better examine his wounds. Seeing Tonks nod, she said, “Good. You set to work on closing these wounds on his arms and legs. I need to get these potions into him. I see you’ve already given him a blood replenisher. Good work.”
Tonks quickly went to work casting the healing charms across the smaller wounds on his body, all the while sending worried glances towards Remus’ face. She didn’t understand how he was still remotely conscious. He kept murmuring, and she was afraid he may be becoming delirious.
Poppy was passing her wand slowly across his midsection, muttering incantations. “He’s got a lot of internal injuries. He should be at St. Mungo’s, but it’s too dangerous to move him right now.”
“Will he be all right?” Tonks asked desperately.
“It’s hard to say right now. Not all of these wounds can be closed magically. He’ll need constant watching over the next couple of days,” the matron said in a quiet voice.
“I can do it. I’m off duty for the next three days, and I can put in for a leave of duty.” Tonks said all of this without taking her eyes off of Remus. Her heart was clenching painfully at the sight of him so weak and pale.
“All right then,” Poppy answered. “You’ll need to apply this ointment every two hours to his open wounds. Also, every four hours you’ll have to give him these three potions. If he wakes, try to get him to take some broth, and add this sleeping draught. He’ll need to rebuild his strength. Keep him warm, it’s very important.” Poppy looked at Tonks appraisingly. “This is going to be a rough night, young lady, and you look half done-in yourself. Are you sure you’re up to this?”
“Of course,” Tonks responded, grateful that her voice didn’t quaver with the intense fear she was feeling.
“I’ll be back in the morning with some more potions and to check those wounds. Contact me immediately by Floo if anything changes,” she said, and quickly vanished back to Headquarters in another blinding flash of green flames.
Tonks sat at Remus’ side, brushing his sweaty hair back from his forehead. The sleeping draught that Poppy had given him had taken effect, and his breathing had become more regular. Her mind was reeling at finding him here, and in this state. After everything they had been through, and all the fights, he had come here when he was in need. Unbidden, the thoughts of their last argument floated through her mind.
It was a fight that had become all too familiar between them. Once again she had tried to convince him that he was what she wanted – just as he was. Of course, he kept arguing that she deserved better. That he was too old, too poor, too damaged. Every time that this ‘discussion’ occurred, it ended the same way – with Tonks screaming at him that she loved him, and Remus storming off, vowing to stay away until she could get over her ‘silly crush’.
This last fight was the worst. He had all but admitted that he loved her, too, but he refused to burden her by trapping her in what he considered to be a doomed relationship. He left that time, swearing to stay away from her for good. That had been three months ago, and Tonks had started to believe that she never would see him again.
Now he was here, broken and unconscious – and he was still the most beautiful thing she had ever seen. Tucking the blanket tighter around him, she lightly traced her fingers over the bruises that were beginning to appear. Curling up in the armchair next to the sofa, she prepared herself for her vigil over the man she loved.
Jerking awake with a start, she was surprised to find that several hours had passed since she had closed her eyes to rest them ‘just for a moment’. Remus was stirring slightly beside her on the couch, moaning softly. Cursing herself for not waking sooner, she quickly prepared the ointment and the potions that he would need. As she moved the blanket aside to begin applying the ointment to his wounds, he suddenly grabbed her wrist, startling her with his quick movement.
“Remus, it’s me. It’s Tonks,” she said quickly, trying to calm him before he could injure himself further. She felt him loosen his grip and relax back into the cushions again. “I’m sorry,” she said, “I didn’t mean to startle you. I need to attend to these wounds, though. This will probably be uncomfortable, so I’ll try to be quick.” He nodded his understanding, and allowed her to treat his wounds. “You need to take these potions. Can you sit up a little?”
Remus nodded again, but grimaced as he lifted his head and shoulders up to take the potions. “I don’t remember how I got here,” he said in a hoarse whisper.
“You somehow managed to Apparate here after you were attacked by the pack,” she explained, helping him settle back down onto the cushions.
“I’m sorry, Nymphadora,” he said. “I don’t know why I came here. I shouldn’t be burdening you.” He was quickly falling back into a deep sleep, but he still managed to reach out his hand and clasp hers before losing consciousness completely. Tonks remained by his side, sitting on the floor and holding his hand as he slept.
Just before dawn, Remus awoke to find Tonks once again applying ointment to his wounds, which were looking much better than they had the night before. They still stung like hell, though, and it was his sharp intake of breath that alerted her to his consciousness.
“I’m sorry, Remus, but I have to apply this ointment. Poppy will have my head if she shows up here later this morning and finds that I’ve been neglecting you. How do you feel?” she asked, seeing for the first time that the color had started returning to his face.
“I guess I feel like a pack of werewolves tried to rip me apart,” he said, grimacing as he attempted to sit up.
“Don’t try to get up! You need your rest, and you may re-open some of these wounds if you move too quickly,” Tonks admonished.
“Nymphadora, you’ll have an even bigger mess if you don’t let me get to the loo,” he responded curtly. He tried to move from the couch, but was overcome by dizziness and settled back down with a groan.
“If you really need the loo, you’re going to have to let me help you. Poppy will not be pleased, though, that I’m allowing this.”
“And what would you suggest I do, then?” he asked. “It’s not as if I have much choice in the matter.” He shot her a dark look, but allowed her to assist him, wrapping the blanket around him. He shuffled slowly, leaning on her for support, but he refused to let her into the bathroom with him. “At least let me keep a shred of dignity, won’t you?” he said petulantly. After a few moments, he reappeared at the door, and they moved slowly back to the couch, where Remus remained sitting up.
“Do you think you could take a little broth?” she asked.
“Only if you promise not to put that blasted sleeping draught in it. That’s Poppy’s solution for everything, and frankly, I hate the way it makes me feel.”
Tonks was so grateful to have him lucid and clearly healing, that she didn’t force the issue. She brought him some broth and helped him to drink it when his hands refused to stop shaking long enough. She could tell that he hated being so weak, but he was holding his tongue on the matter. After all, even he knew that he didn’t have much choice.
Within a few minutes, Poppy once again appeared in the fireplace, looking surprised to see Remus sitting up. “Mr. Lupin! What do you think you’re doing?” she asked severely.
“Well, Poppy, at this moment I’m drinking some broth and trying desperately to ignore the fact that I’m sitting here completely starkers, in only a blanket, in front of the two of you,” he answered, and Tonks smiled at the response.
“Miss Tonks,” Poppy said brusquely, turning her full attention and anger away from Remus for the moment, not knowing how to handle his cheek. “I left strict instructions with you on how do deal with Mr. Lupin, and I arrive to see this. You know how bad his condition was last night. What do you have to say for yourself?”
“I really didn’t think it would do to stun him or hex him into submission. I figured it would be better for him to just sit up and actually take some broth rather than have to fight, which would undoubtedly be worse for him, in his condition.” Tonks was pleased with herself for keeping a straight face when she caught sight of Remus struggling to keep a smug smile off his at her response to the matron.
“You’re just as difficult now as you were as a teenager, honestly,” she grumbled as she began examining his wounds. “Well, at least you’ve managed to properly treat these wounds, Miss Tonks. Frankly, I didn’t expect to see them looking so well this morning. You’re a very lucky man, Remus. The way you looked last night, I really didn’t know if you were going to make it.” She once again passed her wand over his midsection, muttering incantations as she moved. “Your internal injuries are healing well with the potions you’ve taken. You’ll have to keep taking them for a few days, of course. Also, since you’re obviously out of immediate danger, I’d like to move you to St. Mungo’s– ”
“Absolutely not!” Remus interrupted. “I do not need to go to St. Mungo’s, you said yourself I’m out of danger.”
“Mr. Lupin,” Poppy started, bristling at being rebuffed, “You very nearly died last night. I was amazed you managed to Apparate here at all, and then to remain conscious as long as you did... well, I’ve never seen anything like it. You sustained a level of internal injury that would have killed most men immediately. Apparently, you are too stubborn to die, but that does not mean that you will not retain lasting injuries if you do not receive the care you need. The best place for you to be is at St. Mungo’s. However, I suppose I could move you by Portkey to Headquarters– ”
“Poppy, no. I don’t want to be stuck in a bed with any number of people bustling about having to do everything for me. I realize I have injuries, but I’ve always dealt with injuries, and I can manage on my own,” he said. He was trying to remain sitting, but just arguing was quickly sapping what little strength he had, and he was quickly losing the battle to remain upright.
“Remus,” Tonks said quietly, reaching out for his hand, “look at you. You’re barely managing to stay sitting up. If you don’t want to go to St. Mungo’s or Headquarters, at least stay here. Let me take care of you. I already have a few days off work, and you obviously need some help.”
“If I agree, this won’t change anything,” he said, looking into her eyes piercingly.
“I just want to make sure that you get better. I promise not to ask anything of you. You can stay in the bedroom, and I’ll be close by out here to help you when you need it.” She turned to Poppy and said, “Will that be acceptable to you? I’ll make sure he takes his potions, and you can Floo over and check on his progress whenever it’s necessary.”
Poppy looked like she was waging an internal battle. “I suppose that will have to do,” she said tersely. As she collected her things, she mumbled quietly to herself about “stubborn people” and why she was always cursed to have to treat them. She left after announcing that she would return the next morning to once again check on his recovery. With Poppy gone, Remus immediately crumpled back against the cushions of the couch, completely exhausted from the short exchange.
“Come on, Remus. You need to get cleaned up properly and stretch out in the bed so you can rest. I think I have something you can wear, so that you don’t have to be concerned about being ‘starkers in only a blanket’ anymore,” Tonks said lightly.
“I am not wearing your clothes, Nymphadora, no matter how much I hate sitting here like this,” he said sternly.
“Don’t be silly! I have some things that an old boyfriend left here.”
“Who was that?” Remus spurted out in a surprised voice, “Why do you have his clothes here?” He was looking at her darkly, and she could see that he was fairly dripping with jealousy, although he would never admit it.
“He left them here after we broke up,” she said simply, ignoring his annoyed tutting. “Now, let’s get you up and into the bedroom.” They moved slowly into the bedroom, and she carefully helped him down onto the bed. “Now, let me get some water and some towels, and we’ll get you cleaned up.”
“I can do this myself,” Remus said testily.
“I’m sure you can,” she said appeasingly, “but why don’t you let me get everything and I’ll just be here to help if you need it, OK?” She left to bustle about, getting a basin of warm, soapy water, and several large fluffy towels. Upon returning, she found Remus sitting with the blanket tucked neatly around his midriff. Wetting the washcloth, she wrung it out carefully and handed it to Remus, sitting back in the chair to let him try to wash himself. It was not going well. He was much weaker than he wanted to admit, and he finally relented, handing her the washcloth without meeting her eyes.
Settling herself beside him on the bed, she slowly moved the washcloth across his face, slowly moving down across his arms and chest. He leaned back into the pillows, closing his eyes as she repeatedly moved the cloth across his body, returning it frequently to the warm water before moving on to another area. Drying his upper body with a towel, she suddenly moved off the bed, causing him to look up at her, starting at the expression on her face and the unshed tears shining in her eyes.
“‘Dora, don’t,” he said warningly.
“I’m sorry, Remus. It’s just that... if only you could have seen how bad you looked last night! I really thought I was going to lose you,” she said, trying to reign in her emotions. “I don’t understand how you could possibly be sitting there now.”
“I guess that’s the one good aspect to being a werewolf,” he said bitterly. “We possess extraordinary healing abilities – we have to in order to endure our monthly transformations. But even I didn’t think I’d be here today,” he said quietly, not looking at her.
Tonks collected herself, and moved back to apply the ointment to Remus’ open wounds on his back and chest. After casting a bandaging charm, she assisted him in putting on the pajama top she had found for him. He glared at it as if it had done him some sort of wrong, but accepted it grudgingly.
She handed him another large towel saying, “You can cover yourself with that so I can get rid of this blanket and wash your legs. I’ll let you finish up on your own, after that.” Turning her back to allow him some modesty, she cast a re-warming charm on the water before returning to his lower body. After finishing his legs, she handed him the washcloth and again turned her back so that he could attend to himself. When he had finished, she positioned the pajama bottoms so that he could put them on himself, and left the room to allow him to get comfortable.
She returned a few moments later, smiling to herself at the glares he kept casting at the pajamas. “You need to take your potions again, and then you should try to sleep,” she said. After ensuring that there was no sleeping draught snuck into the mix, he took his potions and allowed her to help him settle back against the pillows.
“Thank you, ‘Dora,” he said quietly.
“You’re welcome,” she replied, and sat in a chair in the corner of the room to watch over him as he slept.
After a few hours, Remus woke again, to find Tonks still sitting in the chair in the corner of her bedroom. It looked as though she hadn’t moved since she sat down, other than to pick up a book, which he could see was one of those risqué romance novels. The thought of her reading one of those books amused him, and he couldn’t contain his small snort of laughter at catching her in the act. When she looked up at him, though, the laughter died on his lips. Her face was flushed, and her eyes were bright – she was absolutely beautiful.
“I’m glad you’re awake again,” she said, not noticing his intense appraisal, “I was going to have to wake you soon for your next round of potions.” He grimaced at the thought of more potions, but kept his opinion to himself. She grabbed the potion bottles, and brought them over to him, sitting next to him on the bed. He bristled at having her so close to him, but really wasn’t feeling up to his usual reaction of jump and run. He very stoically took the medicines she offered, and settled back down, trying not to react to her nearness.
“You know,” he started, “you really don’t have to sit over me constantly. I’m honestly doing much better, and I don’t want– ”
“Oh for Merlin’s sake, Remus,” she interrupted. “Don’t you start with that ‘I don’t want to be a burden’ crap. You show up on my doorstep, torn to bits and half-dead, but you don’t want to be a burden. Well that’s just too bad. I almost lost you last night, and if I want to sit vigil over your sickbed, there’s not a damn thing you’re going to do about it to stop me.”
This was going to be more difficult than he thought. Even as she was admonishing him, she gently smoothed his blankets and almost lovingly brushed the hair back from his forehead. Each time she touched him, every nerve ending in his body screamed out in frustration. He loved her with every fiber of his being, but he knew he couldn’t act on it. He loved her enough to never want to put her through the hell of being involved with someone like him. He refused to ever let anyone get close enough to him again where they could be hurt by him, or for him to be hurt by them.
Deep down he knew that if he acted on his feelings, she would jump wildly at the chance to be with him. She’d said so any number of times. But he also knew that in time, the stress and instability of being with him would get to her, and she would grow to resent him, eventually turning away from him. He would never survive that. But oh, could she fight! Every time they revisited that damn argument, it took every ounce of his resolve not to attack her and take her right there. She was too damn sexy when she was in a full rage. Not to mention the fact that solitude and, well frankly, abstinence, had been his whole life for the better part of fifteen years. Just the smell of her was enough to drive him over the edge.
“‘Dora, really. Think about this. How will you be able to function with me here, taking up what little space you have? By the end of the day, I’ll be strong enough to get back to my own flat, and I can care for myself.” He knew that he had to get away, and soon. It was driving him mad that he was lying there, in her bed, while she took up the post to care for him and return him to full health. Even in his weakened state, he knew that no good could come from this situation.
“Well, I have thought about this, and if you think I’m letting you out of my sight before Poppy gives you a clean bill of health, you are sorely mistaken.” She said this, not with anger, but with such compassion that Remus’ heart clenched painfully. At that moment he would have given anything to have been someone else... anyone else who could possibly give to her what she deserved.
“I guess that once again, I don’t really have a choice, do I?” he said, a small, almost defeated smile playing about his lips.
“Remus,” she said quietly, taking his hand in hers, “you know how I feel. The three months you managed to hide from me didn’t change anything. But you showing up here last night did. You said you came here because you had to see me one last time. Do you remember that?”
Damn, he thought to himself. He slowly shook his head, and wondered if there was anything else he said that he couldn’t remember.
“I know you care about me, too. Please don’t try to deny it. Remus, this war is a horrible, evil thing. And this is the second time you’ve gone through it as an active participant. Hasn’t that taught you anything?” She looked at him pleadingly, retaining a tight grip on his hand. “People are fighting and dying to defend the right of all of us to live, and love, and experience life the way that we all deserve to. You deserve it, too! It doesn’t matter how many times you try to push me away, I still love you, and I always will. If anything, you showing up here and almost dying just made me realize it all the more.”
He tried to avoid her gaze, but since he was more or less a captive audience, there really wasn’t much he could do. Giving in, he looked into her eyes, and instantly regretted it. He could actually see how much she loved him, just by looking into her eyes. He also knew that she could see the same thing in his.
Drawing a heavy breath, he said, “I do love you, ‘Dora. But love isn’t always enough. I know you think you understand what you’d be getting into, but you really don’t. Knowing what I go through during my transformations isn’t the same thing as being there to experience it. Knowing that people shun me for what I am isn’t the same thing as seeing the look of revulsion in their eyes – and seeing it directed at you when they find out that we’re together. I never want anyone to look at you that way.” Pausing to gather his thoughts, he slowly reached up to brush away the stray tear, which had escaped from her eye. “I don’t ever want to be the cause of your sadness, and I would be if I allowed this to happen.”
“That is the biggest load of shite I have ever heard,” she said suddenly. He was quite taken aback. After all, he had just opened himself up to her and shared his deepest feelings. He would have been offended if he wasn’t so shocked.
“You’re scared. That’s what this all comes down to. You’re terrified of allowing yourself to care for someone again. You lost your best friends, the only ones to completely accept you without question, and you don’t think you can go through that again.” She jumped up from the bed and started pacing. “Hell, you even hold Harry at arm’s length! Even though you know you’re the last link he has to his parents. You are so bloody panicked about the whole thing, it’s ridiculous. It would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.”
Remus watched her pace, completely stunned and morbidly curious at where she was taking this. “And apparently you’re about to help me reach enlightenment on how to fix all my problems, is that it?” He asked bitingly.
“I can’t solve your problems for you. But I can tell you this. Living in fear is no way to live. You might as well have let the pack finish you off last night. You’re a walking corpse anyway. You’re too afraid to live and experience all that there is out there. This war should make you realize how precious life and love can be. You’re so fond of pointing out our age difference – well at your age, you’d think you could have figured all this out by now.” She had stopped pacing, and now stood in front of Remus, hands clenched, breathing heavily, in more of a fury than he had ever seen her before.
“You don’t know what it’s like,” he started, feeling his own anger rise at being talked down to in such a manner.
“Then why don’t you tell me? You just shut yourself down, never trying to help me understand. I thought that maybe after Sirius died you’d pull your head out of your arse– ”
“Don’t you bring him into this!” he yelled. “Sirius knew what it was like for me– ”
“And you think he’d be happy to see you living this way? If there was one thing about Sirius, it was that he loved life. Every aspect of it. And he died the same way he lived – refusing to sit back on the sidelines. He was a part of it – all of it! He didn’t avoid something because it might be unpleasant or because he might get hurt. He took the risk because he understood that you have to do that to truly live. Life is risk, Remus.” She backed away then, and for the first time since he had known her, she walked away from him.
In one terrifying moment, he was afraid that he might have just accomplished what he had been trying to do for so long. He had successfully pushed her away.
Remus lay there in her bed, feeling completely wrung out and utterly hopeless. He knew she was right, but he had no idea if he could just let it all go and be the person she wanted him to be. He had lived for so long in isolation, keeping everyone at a distance for their protection, and his, that he didn’t know if he was capable of letting someone in. As the minutes ticked by without Tonks returning, he suddenly realized that he already had let someone in. Or rather, someone had fought their way in, kicking and screaming all the way. Tonks was already there, in his heart, and there was nothing he could do about it.
Wiping a weary hand across his brow, he suddenly realized that he had been fighting a losing battle for close to a year now. He should have known that he’d never be able to just walk away from Nymphadora Tonks. Everything about her screamed unconventional – from her outlandish hair to her choice of career, to her completely crazed feelings of love for him. Her very soul demands a challenge, he thought, and apparently she’s going to follow that call, damn the outcome.
He loved everything about her. He thought her clumsiness was endearing. He was amused by her random choices of hair color. He was positively tickled to see her taunting that blasted portrait of Mrs. Black. Just knowing she was in the room made him happy. He truly had been a fool, for so long. Now he just hoped it wasn’t too late to fix things.
Carefully, he began hoisting himself up from the bed, leaning on the side table to regain some balance. With excruciatingly slow, shuffling steps, he made his way to the doorway of her bedroom, cautiously looking through the opening to locate her. She was on the other side of the living room, her back turned to him. Her shoulders were slumped, and he could tell that she had been crying. He hated himself just then.
“‘Dora,” he called to her. She turned around, startled to see him in the doorway.
“Why are you up? Are you all right? Do you need Poppy?” She was quickly wiping the backs of her hands across her cheeks, her concern for him outweighing any embarrassment at being caught crying.
“You’re right,” he said. “I am scared. Hell, I’m bloody terrified. I’m a selfish coward who only cares about protecting his own fragile ego. I couldn’t stand it if you loved me and then stopped.”
Tonks was slowly moving toward Remus, looks of longing and disbelief vying for dominance on her face. “And you don’t think I’m scared?” she asked.
“Frankly, I never even thought about it. I told you I’m a selfish coward.” She was moving closer to him, and every one of his senses was full of her. He took another shuffling step out of the doorway.
“You’re not the only one with fear, Remus. I would just prefer to take the risk. The alternative of never knowing... I don’t want to ever have regrets for not taking a chance.” Tonks stopped moving, just out of reach. Her eyes searching his, desperately looking for permission to cross this last barrier.
“I’m sorry,” he whispered. “I’ve truly been a fool. If Sirius were here he never would have allowed me to carry on this way. He would have taken me to task long before now, and he would have been right. You were right.” He moved forward again, reaching out to her.
Before allowing him to, she stopped him, meeting him squarely in the eye and said, “Remus, there’s no going back. I won’t allow it. It’s all or nothing.”
“I would expect nothing less from you, ‘Dora,” he said with a smile. Slowly, he reached out again, this time making contact. Pulling her closer, he fell into the sweetest embrace he had ever known. Placing a soft kiss on her forehead, he whispered, “You are the only one with whom I want to take this risk. I love you.”
For the first time in his entire life, Remus was ready to live.
The end (or is it?).